New York, New York….
The force of my bedroom window slamming closed blew a neatly arranged heap of paperwork into a snowstorm of receipts and flight tickets. On this day, anticipation and a buzz of excitement filled my stomach as the gap between the brown curtains revealed a pearly-grey morning light. It was the spring holidays of 2014, and on this particular day, I shoved my clothes and analogue gears of photography into my suitcase before setting out to collect memories of the greater world. In part, my newly refreshed sense of adventure brought about by the demise of my father inspired me to make this journey. However, to a large extent, I was going on this mission because I did not want to seem like a boring old person when my friends asked what I had done with my life in my youthful years. I wanted to create an impression of an audacious and bold youthful middle aged man who had hurried toward gayety at every walking second.
Even before leaving London for New York City, I could tell that I wanted to come home and document my time out and about the Big Apple in a fascinating photo blog post. Since the city exerts a sufficiently great impact upon finance, media, art, research, education, commerce and entertainment, I knew I would not lack interesting places, people and things to snap photos of. The nourishment that New York City provides my soul fuels my creative process. Being in this city is like walking the streets of Rome 2000 years ago, it makes one feel the influence of being in the cultural hub of the 21st century. However, underneath all this glory lies the brutal honest truth about the everyday life of people living in New York. When I arrived back home and started going through the numerous film photos I had taken, it occurred to me that my favorite shots were not of the usual New York landmarks. I did not capture the South Point view, the Rockefeller or the Coney Island. Surprisingly, none of the Time Squares shots captured my attention. Rather, perusing through the photos, my eyes could only wander through shots of the Empire State Building in the city’s skyline before abandoning them in search of something interesting to gaze at. At this point, it became apparent that my favorite shots were slightly different, those that reflected the minute details that make New York City great. It’s those photographs that I want to share with you, the pieces that epitomise an extreme reality that is somehow buried by many. Still, this collection includes photos of yellow taxis, the Central Park and the Chrysler buildings.
The everyday life of the people of New York City inspired me to capture objective, candid and truthful images that deepen your understanding of life in the city, and establish an emotional connection with its people. This perhaps follows in the footsteps of famous photographers who have explored New York City including Walker Evans, although I must admit that it was not easy to do so. I even came across photographer Bill Cunningham, a man who has been shooting the street and catwalk fashions of New York for over 40 years. He uses his favorite mode of transport, the bicycle, to traverse the city as he snaps the good, the stylish and the great. As for me, walking is my favorite way to explore a place, capturing images modestly, quietly and almost invisibly. When I was not drooling over pretzels, I was getting lost in museums and walking the streets.
Despite my busy itinerary, I always made time to walk daily and my deaf friend Charlie was good company for me as we explored the neighborhood without any particular destination or goal. We just wandered and observed. It was all about seeking out and capturing humanity, images of ordinary individuals going about their activities. In these fleeting and unseen moments, I found something creative and life-affirming and preserved it forever through the lens. I captured interesting scenes in places such as Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, East Village, Midtown East, Upper East Side, Ellis Island, Weehawken, Central Park, and Memorial Park.
Another dull sunrise bathed the skies in a weak glow, perhaps to chase away the night’s darkness shadows. It was time to head back to London. As I gazed through the hermetically sealed windows, I thought of how my life had felt terribly empty since the demise of my father and I miss him every day. The only person who knew me well was my father and for a long time I had imagined that no other person would ever care about me the way my father did. Well, but then Charlie has always been there for me. Apart from that, looking through the lens makes everything new, peculiar, and exciting and a fascinating spectacle that makes life worth living. Having molded myself into the designated observer and interpreter of New York City, I will definitely visit again in the near future to take more photos, especially in the Bronx area and Coney Island.
Very special thanks to Charlie, who was my companion throughout the trip and his nieces Anna and Lisha for putting us up in their scrumptious apartment in Weehawken, New Jersey, overlooking the glorious view of West New York!
Contax645 & Leica M6
Fuji 400H, ACROS 100 & Kodak 400 TMX, Porta 400 & 400 BCWN
Fuji 800 Superia & Gold200